Peter the Great Examining a Statue of Venus in the Summer Palace
Эскиз картины «Венера» (1916, Днепропетровский художественный музей). 1916
Peter the Great was following the example of European monarchs when he laid out several summer residences in St Petersburg and its environs that would eventually become luxurious combinations of architecture and park land. Marble sculptures were purchased abroad to decorate the interiors of palaces and the alleyways in the parks, and one particular item that was brought to Russia during Peter’s reign was the famous statue of the Venus of Tauris (now in the Hermitage Museum). Pope Clement XI had himself placed a ban on the export of the statue from Rome, but the cunning Russian diplomat Savva Raguzinsky offered him in exchange the relics of St Bridget of Sweden that had been seized as a trophy in Reval. It would not be right for the Pope to prefer a sensual pagan goddess over a Catholic saint, so the Venus set off for St Petersburg in 1718. Vasily Kuchumov depicts the scene of the ceremonial “presentation” of the strange new acquisition to Peter the Great and the court nobility assembled in the Winter Palace. Next to the Emperor the artist has placed his African page, Abram Petrovich Hannibal (known as his “Moor”), who was the great-grandfather of Alexander Pushkin, the great Russian poet.